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									                                                                      Travel Trade Online
                                                                      March 20, 2009
                                                                      By: Travel Trade Staff
                                                                      20,000 visitors / month




Hosts Upbeat on Biz, HB Growth
Fri Mar 20 2009, by Travel Trade Staff

                                                      In the following Roundtable
                                                      discussion, some of the
                                                      industry’s leading Host
                                                      agencies talk about trends in
                                                      the Host/Home Based
                                                      segment of the industry,
                                                      including: a growing number
                                                      of Home Based agents, both
                                                      with retail travel experience
                                                      and new entrants; a thumbs
                                                      up for their relations with
                                                      suppliers; a very positive
                                                      outlook about the future of
                                                      the travel industry and
                                                      surprising optimism about the
                                                      business this year, even in
                                                      the current downturn. As
                                                      Cruise Planners’ Vicky Garcia
                                                      said, “Those of us who have
                                                      been ‘out there’ are going to
                                                      BOOM” when the economy
                                                      turns around, as she believes
                                                      it will later this year.
                                                      Given the Joystar bankruptcy
                                                      and the never ending roster
                                                      of card mill/MLMs, the Host
                                                      agents discuss how Home
Based agents should go about vetting Host agencies before deciding on an affiliation.

In the following Part 1 of the Roundtable, Host agents discuss the growth in Home
Based agents and how they work with suppliers. In Part 2, they talk about current
business, their outlook going forward and how to select a Host.

Is the Home Based sector growing, and if so how?
Brad Anderson, co-president, America’s Vacation Center:

America’s Vacation Center is having a record year and we are rapidly growing. The
industry is becoming more and more globalized, and agencies that specialize are
succeeding in today’s market. Based on our experience, the Home Based sector is
continuing to grow, and the majority of travel professionals joining America’s Vacation
Center are either already Home Based and seeking to boost their businesses, or they
are moving to a Home Based model from storefront agencies or call center settings.
                                                                        Travel Trade Online
                                                                        March 20, 2009
                                                                        By: Travel Trade Staff
                                                                        20,000 visitors / month




Michael Drever, CEO and founder, Expedia CruiseShipCenters:

The Home Based sector is definitely continuing to grow. We continue to see a high
level of interest from both experienced agents and newcomers to the industry.
Experienced agents seem to be looking for a better “tool kit” that will provide them the
opportunity to be more productive as sales people.

The newcomers to the industry are either passionate cruise enthusiasts who would like
to be a part of this great industry or people who have been recently displaced from a
previous sales position generally. Or, merely people who are looking to generate a
supplemental form of income and have fun doing it.

Jackie Friedman, CTC, CTIE, general manager, Nexion Inc.:

From my perspective, the Home Based agent sector continues to grow, even in a
tough economy. Many of our agents come from brick and mortar agencies and are
looking to move their business home to reduce operating expenses. Others are ready
to give up their ARC number and are looking for air fulfillment so that they can operate
from home. Some agents are attracted to the Home Based sector since it offers them
an opportunity to shift from front-line agent to business owner without the capital outlay
or operating expenses associated with owning a brick and mortar agency.

In addition to the shift of experienced agents to the Home Based sector, we are finding
that many new agents are entering the travel business from other industries, either
intentionally or as a result of a layoff. Some start on a part-time basis as a second
career with the hope of being able to transition into travel full-time. Others look at this
as a great retirement career and there are many who take the plunge and commit to
working in their Home Based agencies full-time.

As I work with many of our new agents who attend our conferences and boot camps,
some attributes emerge regardless of their previous business experience. Many new
entrants have sales, marketing, service or technical backgrounds. They are well-
networked, have a passion for travel and really like helping people. Regardless of
where they came from, they bring experiences and passion with them that will help
them to be successful in the travel industry.

Ken Gagliano, president, Travel Planners International:

TPI is seeing growth in both experienced and inexperienced agents. Smaller traditional
storefront agencies are simply downsizing and going Home Based where they can
realize the benefits of a Host relationship that helps them not only earn more
commission, but also market themselves more effectively, assist with technology -
booking tools and Web sites, along with differentiating themselves from the
competition by finding a niche.

Our recruiting numbers are way up, especially since the financial crisis started in
August and the problems at Joystar. Since August, we have added well over 350 new
agents and it’s only a matter of time before these agents get their sales ramped up.
                                                                         Travel Trade Online
                                                                         March 20, 2009
                                                                         By: Travel Trade Staff
                                                                         20,000 visitors / month




Our main objective at TPI is to help our agents increase their sales through our
marketing programs, create more efficiency in invoicing and tracking of commissions
and, ultimately, help the agent earn more money. An agent and Host agency have to
equally see value in the relationship and at TPI we focus on creating value with our
programs. The agent sees the results in their checking accounts and less stress at the
end of the day! If an agent could do it for less and earn more on their own, then why
would they want to work with us? I often lose sleep on why more agents are not with a
Host agency.

Vicky Garcia, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Cruise Planners:

We are seeing a significant growth of net new travel agents joining Cruise
Planners/American Express over the same time last year. It’s amazing. Most are doing
it for their passion for cruising. However, we are seeing more recently that it’s often
coupled with the fear of the recession affecting their current jobs. It’s a great
opportunity for our industry to grow and cruise lines to realize that the travel agent
distribution channel is the best way for them to reach consumers. Let’s face it, Home
Based agents are out in the local communities, shaking hands and kissing babies...this
business is about relationships. It can’t all be done online.

Betsy Geiser, director, sales and administration, Uniglobe Travel Center:

The Home Based sector continues to grow and flourish. Agents are realizing that a
storefront is not only cost prohibitive but also not necessary in the virtual world we live
in.

We have also seen a lot of interest from people looking for a post retirement career or
people looking to change careers. Because the economy is dipping, many people
have been laid off and have decided it’s time to do their own thing. Many of the people
that I have been talking to have a passion for travel and are ready to start their dream
career.

Stephanie Lee, COO, TravelQuest:

Absolutely. We’ve seen a wide variety of agents going Home Based due to office
closures, downsizing and career changes. We signed up a record number of agents in
January, despite the overall downturn in other areas of the travel industry, which tells
me that people are seeing the value in going Home Based. You can’t beat the low
overhead costs and flexibility that come with owning your own Home Based business.
                                                                                   Travel Trade Online
                                                                                   March 20, 2009
                                                                                   By: Travel Trade Staff
                                                                                   20,000 visitors / month




Andi McClure-Mysza, president, MTravel.com:

Yes, the segment is definitely growing and by various means:

     1. Brick and mortars closing and just moving their businesses home;

     2. Brick and mortars laying off experienced agents who are now starting up as
        Home Based agents to continue to take advantage of their skills;

     3. New entrants, part-timers - people looking to start up a business prior to
        retiring (they want it to be established by retirement) OR people with honest
        travel sales potential brought in initially by the MLMs who have since learned
        the MLMs are not what they are looking for.

Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.:

The Home Based sector is growing rapidly, for several reasons. Most importantly - and
those we most frequently hear from those joining our network - are flexibility and
operational costs. Working from home provides travel agents with the chance to do
what they love - selling travel - while having the flexibility to build their own schedules.
Additionally, working from home keeps costs down, decreasing the overhead of
maintaining a brick and mortar agency.

Another reason we feel the Home Based category is exploding right now is the
economy. Our recruitment numbers from industries other than travel continue to rise.
This is exciting, because while we strive to grow our network through the addition of
reputable, qualified agents with existing books of business, it is also important to bring
fresh blood into the travel industry. As a result of layoffs in industries like banking and
real estate, many people who may not have sold travel but are excellent salespeople
are out there looking for a new opportunity. Many of those people also have an
inherent entrepreneurial spirit and have always had a passion for traveling themselves.
We continue seeing these types of new faces in our classes of CruiseOne Franchise
Owners and Cruises Inc. Independent Agents.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Do suppliers deal effectively with Hosts?

Drever: Our preferred supplier relationships have never been stronger and, yes, they
work extremely effectively with Host agencies, provided you are a Host agency that is
performing well or above average. It has always been our experience that it is not so
much “what business model” you are operating in vs. whether you are performing well
compared to the competitors in your sector of business and the industry overall.
Generally, the difference between companies doing well and those not boils down to
the level of investment each company or organization has made into their marketing,
sales and operating systems over time.
                                                                        Travel Trade Online
                                                                        March 20, 2009
                                                                        By: Travel Trade Staff
                                                                        20,000 visitors / month




Friedman: I guess my answer is both YES and NO. The suppliers who understand
that Host agencies can help them effectively and efficiently reach and support large
numbers of Home Based agents make great partners. They rely on us to help them
reach out to our agents and their consumers and to help take on first level problem
resolution to help them reduce their support costs.

Just as not all Host agencies are the same, not all supplier support models are the
same. Some have established dedicated sales teams that specialize in growing Home
Based channel sales. Some have established secondary phone field models where
independent agents are supported by local sales reps but still mapped to the Host.
Some have figured out that Hosted agents do not fit neatly into geographic sales
territories and have found ways to overcome that challenge. I view the relationships
that we have with suppliers as a partnership where we work together to mutually grow
our businesses.

The truth is that there are still suppliers that do not truly understand the different Host
models out there. They do not appreciate the role that we play in helping our
independent agents evolve into successful sellers of travel for their brands. Probably
the biggest challenge that we face is that there are still some suppliers who have
internal compensation structures that are not aligned with the reality that many Hosted
agents do not reside in the same geographic territory as the Host.

Gagliano: For the most part, suppliers are finally realizing the benefits of closely
working with Hosts. However, they still need a tremendous amount of education on
what we can actually do and that’s where PATH (the Professional Association of
Travel Hosts) can help. Again, it all comes down to value for the supplier and the cost
of reaching out to Home Based agents in training and marketing.

Garcia: For the most part they do. We happen to have great partnerships with all of
the major cruise lines.

Geiser: Many suppliers are working more closely with Hosts and many of our
suppliers offer our agents their direct contact information so the agent has the ability to
contact them if they need additional attention. I think that the suppliers are better
recognizing Hosted agents as a significant part of their distribution stream.

Lee: Overall, I would say yes. Although sometimes it can be challenging since our
agencies don’t fit the mold of traditional agencies. We brainstorm with our reps and
have found them very open to working on ways to tailor programs to our business
model’s needs.

McClure-Mysza: Interesting question. Many suppliers are getting better at dealing
with Hosts as they better understand the needs and potential of the emerging Home
Based agent market. There still are some issues that need addressing, one of the
biggest being local BDM support for agents outside of the Host’s “territory.”
                                                                     Travel Trade Online
                                                                     March 20, 2009
                                                                     By: Travel Trade Staff
                                                                     20,000 visitors / month




Wall: We have a very strong relationship with nearly every major cruise supplier and
many land/tour operators. A large part of this is because we are not a small Host and
represent such a significant amount of volume (as part of World Travel Holdings).

Anderson: From America’s Vacation Center’s unique Host agency perspective, we
have seen unwavering support from suppliers, and this would lead us to believe that in
general, suppliers are dealing effectively with Host agencies. Royal Caribbean
International and Celebrity Cruises’ ASAP program for instance is a great example of
the suppliers’ efforts on behalf of professional sellers of travel.

America’s Vacation Center is not a typical Host agency. Over 90% of our business
comes from the Live Leads that we generate for our Independent Affiliates and
America’s Vacation Center Independent Affiliates produce 10 to 20 times that of the
average Home Based travel agent. For this reason, suppliers deal very effectively with
America’s Vacation Center.

For more see “Host Roundtable Part II: Hosts Tell How To Find Right Affiliation”
www.traveltrade.com/6349.news.

								
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